I wrote to the DRE at the start of the school year, explaining that my teen wanted to be confirmed but that I was in the middle of a new job that was requiring 70-80 hour work weeks, so I really *could not* be the hand-holding parent going to a bazillion meetings and all that. I requested that the parish come up with a formation program my teen could complete without parent attendance, and what with it being she, not I, getting confirmed, it seemed reasonable.
Despite the steady nagging of teens to become “adults in the faith,” the parish struggled intensely with the idea of working directly with a teenager. I can get this, because I work directly with young persons, so I know that they are not universally organized and conscientious. Teaching children to become adults requires risk-taking and persistence. DRE’s thus tend to have an Augustinian wish: Give these teens responsibility, oh Lord, but not yet.
Over at the Register, Jason Craig writes “Why Confirmation is Not a Mere Rite of Passage.” I give it a hearty amen in part because I have shown up to a couple parent Confirmation-prep things lately, and apparently the indoctrination at religious ed on the “becoming an adult in the faith” is so strong that when I whispered to my teen a corrective to the presenter’s assertion that the sacrament of Confirmation was about you as a teen confirming you wanted to be Catholic, she whispered back, surprised, “It’s not??” I let the deacon feel my ire. The mother is not amused by pseudo-theology.
The mother is, however, grateful. If you’re going to lay into the parish staff for their irresponsibility, you have to be willing to do the work to offer something better. We came home from that dreadful formation meeting with a challenge: What is the point of Confirmation? It’s all well and good to say it gives you the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, but what does that mean? How is it different from Baptism and the Eucharist?
A few days contemplation bore much fruit. My husband and I, and hopefully the kids as well, found ourselves moved very deeply as we considered with awe the reality of this sacrament which, described imprecisely, is for your relationship with the Holy Spirit what the Eucharist is for your relationship with Jesus Christ. That intimate union, that indwelling, that receiving of life . . . to speak of the action of the Trinity is risk material heresy, but whoa! You want to shake a few shoulders and shout at the bishop with his well-meaning video for teens DO YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT IS YOU ARE FAILING TO TELL THESE KIDS?!! Tithing and church service are great, and yeah I’d like more priests too (though I want to find out if there’s a trustworthy seminary first), but seek first the Kingdom of Heaven, guys! Confirmation is one of the seven great mystical things, and you are missing out terribly if you think it is just a glorified membership drive.
Fortunately, the sacrament doesn’t wear off. Even if your parish has hidden the glory of the Holy Spirit under the table cloth of mandatory service hours, and your teen’s formation program consists of Catholic-brand career-counseling, God in His humility is waiting, like the preschooler behind the door calling out “I’m hiding come find me!” Ignore the distractions. Go into the quiet room where God dwells and find Him there. He wants to live in you. He wants to make you His home. He wants to make His life your life. You were made for this.
The children are taught to list the Gifts of the Holy Spirit when asked what it is they receive at Confirmation. You’re supposed to say that, instead of “Green light for my quince,” or “To get my parents off my back,” when they ask why you want to be confirmed. There’s an awful lot of talking about the gifts, and using the gifts, and of course you had to work hard attending classes and doing service projects and writing papers in order to be allowed to have the gifts.
It is so much noise. Blather. Idiocy. Too smart for your own good. Ditch the growing-up talk, because it is a childlike faith that our Lord requests. Children, unsophisticated, believing, accepting, are unafraid to ask for what Confirmation is: I want the Power of God to live inside me.
That’s more than enough.